State penalizes Home Depot $1.6 million for selling restricted hydrofluorocarbon products 

The Washington Department of Ecology on Thursday said it issued a $1.6 million penalty to The Home Depot for selling prohibited hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) products, after roughly two years of attempts to bring the company into compliance.

According to an ecology department news release announcing the penalty, HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases used mainly for refrigeration and air conditioning, and they can leak into the atmosphere if equipment is faulty or damaged. When that happens, HFCs have hundreds to thousands of times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.  

The Washington State Legislature passed laws in 2019 and 2021 gradually phasing out the use of HFCs, and the ecology department has been working with manufacturers and retailers to help them comply with the law. One of the restrictions banned the sale of R-134a canisters at retail stores beginning in July 2021. R-134a is an HFC refrigerant used in automotive air conditioning systems with a global warming potential 1,430 times that of carbon dioxide.  

After Washington’s HFC regulations took effect, the ecology department began notifying and educating businesses about how to comply in November 2021. In response, most businesses voluntarily updated their websites and sales practices. The Home Depot continued to both offer and sell R-134a canisters to Washington customers on its website. Ecology staff made numerous attempts between 2021 and 2023 to help the company come into compliance. 

In addition to continued outreach, Ecology hosted technical assistance meetings with The Home Depot’s website software and compliance teams in 2022 and was assured that the identified products would not be available for purchase in Washington and that no new prohibited products would be added to the website. After Ecology again discovered R-134a products being offered for sale on The Home Depot’s website during a routine compliance check in July 2023, Ecology requested information from the company about potential sales. The Home Depot informed Ecology that they sold 1,058 units of the prohibited products in Washington between April 12, 2022, and Sept. 5, 2023. 

Under Washington law, the company could have faced penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. Based on the company’s prompt disclosure of units sold, Ecology reduced the amount to $1,500 per violation, or $1.6 million in total. The company has 30 days to appeal the penalty to Washington’s Pollution Control Hearings Board. 

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